AL HAMNIK: Colts' QB Andrew Luck a mini-me Peyton Manning

2013-10-21T18:45:00Z 2013-12-12T22:15:30Z AL HAMNIK: Colts' QB Andrew Luck a mini-me Peyton ManningAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 21, 2013 6:45 pm  • 

It's a jungle out there in the NFL, a fight to the finish.

Watch TV, read the sports pages, scan the Internet and players are falling like autumn leaves.

This is scary in an age of high-tech sports medicine and advanced therapy. But down they go, each week, many with season-ending injuries.

Pretenders or contenders. It doesn't matter.

Sunday night, flying high after knocking off Peyton Manning's previously-unbeaten Denver Broncos, 39-33 at packed Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts crashed back to earth upon learning star receiver Reggie Wayne had blown out his knee.

It happened in the fourth quarter. He was not hit on the play, but tried to come back and catch a low pass from Andrew Luck, hero of the night.

Wayne had started 189 consecutive games, the longest streak among active receivers. He is one of nine players in league history to catch 1,000 passes.

The injury wasn't Luck's doing, but try telling him.

"What happened to Reggie stinks. It absolutely stinks any way you look at it," Luck said. "And it's my fault. I underthrew him. It was a bad pass. I should've thrown a higher ball."

The more you talk with Andrew Luck, watch him on and off the field, listen to what he says in good and tough times, you will see a "mini-me" Peyton Manning.

Team first, and never waver on that mindset.

Spread the applause around and don't covet the spotlight, though you were obviously born for it.

Appreciate the Colts' organization for what it's done for you, not vice versa.

Sound familiar?

"I feel good about this team but we gotta get healthy. We're beat up," coach Chuck Pagano said after Sunday's upset win. "That was a war, a blood bath out there.

"Grittiest football team that I've ever been around my entire life."

Luck surprisingly upstaged Manning, the legend he had replaced. But the kid is also very smart and refreshingly humble, which only adds to his wide appeal.

"Guys did a great job not getting caught up with the B.S. of that (Peyton return) thing," Luck said. "We knew we needed points to beat an incredible Broncos team.

"What a setting. It was rockin'. The energy ... you could taste it. It was a very special environment to play in."

Luck wasn't finished.

"From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the Colts fans that showed up," Luck continued. "They're the best fans in the country, the classiest. We're so glad to have them behind us."

Forget all the Peyton vs. Luck hype that had become the storyline in the week leading up. Both QBs chose wisely to talk about their respective teams afterward.

"Football is a team game," Luck said. "Certain people might make it one person versus a certain person but it's never that way."

These are exciting times in Indianapolis.

The young, physical Colts are very good, though losing Wayne will slow them down a bit. But they have the right pieces working and a QB destined for Manning-like greatness.

"Pressure? Andrew Luck is mature beyond his years," Pagano said.

Did we mention Indy's front office? General manager Ryan Grigson, a Highland guy, could make NFL Executive of The Year an annual achievement.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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